Native Americans of all ages boast their heritage in dance competitions at the Kee-Boon-Mein-Kaa Pow Wow. (Leader file photo)
Native Americans of all ages boast their heritage in dance competitions at the Kee-Boon-Mein-Kaa Pow Wow. (Leader file photo)

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Celebrate culture

Published 10:25am Thursday, August 21, 2014

Pokagon Pow Wow returns Labor Day weekend

DOWAGIAC — For the 29th year, people from across the nation will convene at Rogers Lake to celebrate another great harvest during the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi’s Kee-Boon-Mein-Kaa Pow Wow.

Held during Labor Day Weekend, the competitive pow wow event is expected to draw hundreds of Native American dancers from tribes across the U.S. and Canada, as well as thousands of spectators. The annual celebration is the second and largest of the two pow wows the local tribe puts on every year, according to Paige Risser, the band’s director of communications.

“’Kee-Boon-Mein-Kaa means, in Potawatomi, ‘I quit harvesting huckleberries,’” Risser said. “It’s been a fall activity to celebrate another successful harvest for centuries in Potawatomi culture.”

Leaders in the Pokagon Band, which is comprised of around 4,500 citizens living in southwest Michigan and northern Indiana, renewed this time-honored celebration around 30 years.

“They made that the focus, coming together and celebrating a good harvest,” Risser said.

The pow wow was originally held at St. Patrick’s County Park in Indiana, before moving to its current home on tribal land around seven years ago, Risser said.

In contrast to the more traditional Memorial Day Pow Wow, the Kee-Boon-Mein-Kaa Pow Wow is a competitive event, with participants earning between $100 and $500 for top finishes.

“The stakes are little higher, with people from different locations competing with one another,” Risser said.

Several different dances and regalia will be on display during the two-day event, including traditional male and female dances, which feature dancers wearing exquisite beadwork and feathers that represent their nation, clan or family.

“The men act out hunting and war battle movements,” Risser said. “They’re kind of telling a story.”

Other types of dance and regalia include men’s grass and fancy, as well as women’s fancy shawl and jingle dress. There will also be competitions for drumming.

One of the highlights of the weekend for visitors are the two grand entry ceremonies, which take place on Saturday at 1 and 6 p.m.

“All the dancers parade around in their regalia, and you can see each of them demonstrating their dance,” Risser said. “It’s a real impressive sight.”

Admission and parking to the event is free. Rogers Lake is located at 58620 Sink Rd. in Dowagiac. For additional information, call the Pokagon Band offices at (269) 462-4325.

“The Pokagon Band wants to invite anyone who’s interested in Native American culture to attend,” Risser said. “It’s a great cultural exchange.”

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